Medevac insurer may get license back

An Airlift Northwest Lear Jet waits for a medevac call at Juneau’s airport. Airlift continues offering medevac insurance, but Apollo Medi Trans lost its state license to renew or issue policies in February. EdSchoenfeld/CoastAlaska photo.

A popular medevac insurance company says it’s close to resuming business in Alaska. Apollo Medi Trans stopped renewing policies earlier this year, leaving many customers without coverage. But there are other options.

Wrangell’s Kathy Sandness was planning a trip a few weeks ago and decided to check on her insurance.

She wanted to be sure she was covered if she or her husband had a heart attack or serious injury requiring a medical evacuation flight to a distant hospital.

Sandness knew her Apollo medevac policy was supposed to renew automatically. But she found it expired two months ago – with no notice.

She emailed the company and it confirmed she no longer had insurance.

“I did email back and was kind of curious if anything had happened in the interim would we have been covered? And their response was no, we would not have been covered,” she says.

Sandness is one of hundreds if not thousands of Alaskans who pay Apollo $125 a year to cover the expense of medevacs.

The flights cost tens of thousands of dollars, and are often not fully covered by regular health insurance plans.

“Living in Southeast, if you do have a medevac need, it’s very expensive and we felt other people need to be made aware of this,” she says. “They could have accidentally not kept track of their own policies with Apollo. And they need to make a decision whether they want to wait for Apollo to be renewed with the state or possibly seek other alternatives.”

Her policy, and those of some other covered Alaskans, was not renewed because the Fairbanks-based insurer lost its state license back in February.

Customers with active policies still have coverage. But those with expired policies are not.

Apollo officials won’t discuss why they failed to renew their license to sell insurance in Alaska. But Medical Director Dr. Eric Sterling says they’re working hard to get it back.

“We‘re doing every bit we can to be compliant and help and we’re hopeful that it will be soon,” he says.

A staffer answering Apollo’s customer-service line said medevac insurance could resume in a week or two.

That might be possible.

Marty Hester, deputy director of the state Division of Insurance, says Apollo submitted its paperwork at the beginning of the month.

“We have responded to them with the additional information that we’re seeking. And we’re waiting for them to provide that additional information,” he says.

Once that arrives, “Reviewing it should go fairly quickly. I would say 48 to 72 hours, if we have all the information that’s needed.”

Alaskans do have other choices for insurance – from the medivac companies themselves.

Seattle-based Airlift Northwest offers its AirCare membership program, which costs $99 a year for Alaska residents. And Salt Lake City-based GuardianFlight is working toward its own insurance program, though no price or date has been set.

Wrangell’s Kathy Sandness says she’s switched to the Airlift Northwest program. But she worries about others formerly insured by Apollo.

“We all say we’re very, very healthy, but we have friends here who are a little bit more on the edge of medical conditions. That’s why they have the policy. And I’m concerned that could just bankrupt someone so quickly,” she says.

Medevacs are used for a variety of medical emergencies. Among the most common are heart attacks, serious infections and problem pregnancies.

Recent headlines

  • dollar bill money macro

    Per diems driving special session costs

    Lawmakers who represent areas outside Juneau receive $295 for each day of the special session. Juneau lawmakers receive $221.25 per day.
  • Caroline Hoover proudly pins an Alaska Territorial Guard medal on the front of her father's parka during an official discharge ceremony held Oct. 17 in Kipnuk, Alaska. David Martin is one of three surviving members of the Alaska Territorial Guard's Kipnuk unit. A total of 59 residents of Kipnuk, who volunteered to defend Alaska in the event of a Japanese invasion during World War II, were recognized during the ceremony. Kipnuk residents who served with the Alaska Territorial Guard from 1942-1947 were members of a U.S. Army component organized in response to attacks by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. (Photo by Jerry Walton, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs cultural resource manager and native liaison/public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

    16 Alaska Territorial Guard vets to be honored in Anchorage

    Sixteen veterans of the Alaska Territorial Guard will be honored at a discharge ceremony today. Four of them are from Western Alaska.
  • Don Andrew Roguska looks out from an upstairs window of an historic Juneau house he bought in 2016 to restore. Zoning regulations have prevented him from rebuilding in the same style. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

    Juneau mulls relaxing zoning rules for historic houses

    The historic houses in Juneau and Douglas were predominately built by miners and fishermen long before today's zoning was put into place. That's prevented homeowners from restoring or rebuilding homes in these neighborhoods without running into conflict with the city's zoning laws -- a temporary fix may be on the way.
  • Young joins Afghanistan war skeptics in Congress

    Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young wants to know why Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan. He has co-sponsored a bill that would end funding for the war in a year, unless the president and Congress affirm the need for it.